Proof: 95 / ABV: 47.5%
Age: 12 years (almost 13 years at the time of bottling), barreled in October 1997
Distillery: Brown-Forman Shively, Louisville, Kentucky, USA
Mashbill: 72% corn / 18% rye / 10% barley
Retail Pricing: $50-55 in 2013
Availability: Long gone. I found it on the shelves of Gordon’s Liquors in Greeley, Colorado when I was in college. Yes Greeley smells terrible, we get it.
Packaging Notes: I love the packaging of Birthday Bourbon releases. Like Parker’s, the subtle changes to the labels and colors each year make it fun to collect multiple releases. I know, I’m weak. Fun fact: the 2010 bottling is the second to last year with the old style logo. The more you know!
“This year’s vintage release of Old Forester is crafted from a 72 barrel batch that was put into barrels on October 24, 1997. These barrels were evenly matured together in the very middle of Warehouse K, on the 5th floor in ricks 42, 43 and 45, surrounded by open space. This environment allowed the barrels to easily breathe during maturation and develop a rich fruit and spice character.” – Chris Morris, Brown-Forman
Sensibles: The nose is full of oak, brown sugar, and vanilla with a trace of dried cherries. If you just take a sip, you’ll get something that is a bit one note with a smoky taste (think subtle American malt) overpowering most other flavors. Allowing this one to sit on your palate rewards you with a much more complex array of flavors: brown sugar, raisin bread, caramel chews, and dark chocolate lead to a finish that is long and warming and full of baking spices. Wonderfully smooth and complete.
Although this is a great bourbon, it offers little in terms of uniqueness. It’s a straight up example of a classic bourbon profile with little flair. High marks for being “on profile,” but for an annual release of Old Forester’s “honey” barrels, I’m looking for something a bit more sexy.
Value: First, some perspective. Consider that this bottle is from 2010, before the ‘boom’. A 12-year old, annual release for $53 back then was a reasonable buy, perhaps slightly overpriced by some peoples’ standards but it was in the realm of affordability. Flash forward to 2019 and there are countless 12-year old whiskies on shelves for about this price, some even barrel proof. Being a non-barrel proof, 12-year old bourbon is actually kind of mundane nowadays. In the 9 years since this release, Brown-Forman has doubled the price without changing really anything but the labeling and slightly increasing the proof, making it a hard sell compared to everything else out there. Additionally, for us common folk, good luck finding this just sitting on shelves any longer (unless it’s marked up to about $280 – $350 or higher). As this is an annual rare release from a major distiller, it’s a highly coveted bunker trophy which further hurts this one on value.
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